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Full text of "Fashion plates in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum"



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Fashion Plates 



in the 

Collection of the 
Cooper-Hewitt 
Museum 



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The Smithsonian 
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National Museum 
of Design 



Front cover (left to right) : 
Dress with Spencer jacket 
London Magazine, 1799 

Woman's and man's clothing "a la angloise" 
Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1815 

Walking dress 
Wiener Moden, 1817 

Day dress 

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1820 



Fashion Plates 



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in the 

Collection of the 
Cooper-Hewitt 
Museum j 

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The Smithsonian 
Institution's 
National Museum 
of Design 



1 Evening dress 
London Magazine, 1799 



© 1982 by the Smithsonian Institution 

All rights reserved 

Library of Congress Catalog No. 82-7341E 

Designed by Mentyka/Schlott 
Photographs by Scott Hyde 
Typeset by Cardinal Type Service, Inc. 
Printed by Eastern Press 




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Foreword 



In the late eighteenth century, 
fashion plates began appearing in 
periodicals devoted wholly or in 
part to fashion. A delightful collec- 
tion of over 9,000 such illustra- 
tions, most of which were assem- 
bled by Vyvyan Holland, the son of 
Oscar Wilde, is housed in the 
Cooper-Hewitt Museum. These 
charming prints illustrate changes 
in style and taste in clothing for 
men, women, and children from that 
period until the first guarter of the 
twentieth century, when fashion 
magazines began using photo- 
graphic illustrations. The prints 
detail the "proper" attire for every 
occasion— from carriage rides to 
concerts, summer frolics to funerals 
and weddings, bicycling to gala 
balls— and demonstrate the occur- 
rence and recurrence, as well as 
the enduring quality of some styles. 

The printing of this publication 
coincides with the showing of the 
exhibition Fashion Prints: 125 Years 
of Style. Both were made possible 
through a generous grant from 
Harper's Bazaar, a Hearst Corpora- 
tion publication which has a long 
and important history in setting and 
recording style. 



Lisa Taylor 
Director 



2. Day dress 
Journal des Dames el des Modes, 1809 



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What to wear? 

Surely it has been a question 
under consideration since the 
fig leaf— and one that has been 
answered differently by different 
peoples, according to their time, 
their geography their life's work, 
their society Nonetheless, for any 
relatively homogeneous culture, 
conformity in dress seems to take 
on the force of an innate human 
instinct. And that's why a study of 
any group's sartorial choices yields 
more than a solipsistic review of 
clothing styles. History of fashion is 
quite literally a record of lifestyles, 
mores, political and philosophical 
trends 

What's more, an examination of 
clothing brings one immediately in 
touch with another time. Just as 
each of us responds (or not) to the 
vicissitudes of fashion today so, 
too, do we relate to styles that 
evolved in another decade or cen- 
tury. What woman who has ever 
even tried on a pair of narrowly 
pointed or extremely high-heeled 
pumps cannot imagine the painful 
price aristocratic Chinese women 
paid for the "ultra-femininity" of 
bound feet? What man who has 
struggled to find matching socks in 
his rush to the office can't marvel 
at the leisure required to put on the 
buttons and bows and studs of an 
eighteenth-century French court- 
ier's outfit 9 

During the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries, first in west- 
ern Europe and then in America, 
one of the finest contemporary 
sources for answers about matters 



of style was the fashion plate. 
Technically speaking, fashion plates 
are engraved or lithographed 
prints, distributed as the entirety or, 
more often, as supplements to 
periodicals concerned with direct- 
ing their elite readership to good 
taste and proper discrimination. 
Often beautifully hand-colored (as 
are those in the Cooper-Hewitt's 
9,000-piece collection), fashion 
plates occupied the attentions of 
accomplished, dedicated artists, so 
that by the end of the eighteenth 
century, these depictions of fashion 
had their own standing as a 
decorative art form, with its own 
visual signals and stylizations. 

In fact, representation of current 
fashion is as old as art itself, but 
the earliest examples of work 
specifically designed to show 
clothes as opposed to their wearers 
were usually records of regional 
costume, as in Albrecht Dlirer's 
early drawings of the styles of 
Nuremberg and Venice in 1494, or 
Giacomo Franco's Habiti delle 
Donne Veneziane and Romeyn de 
Hooghe's Figures de la Mode 
printed in Amsterdam, both in the 
seventeeth century. But these 
pictures, and other isolated exam- 
ples, are doubly distinct from true 
fashion plates in that they are 
intended to record the mode of the 
recent past, and therefore must be 
deemed the earliest examples of 
costume, not fashion, plates. 

Jacques Esnauts and Michel 
Rapilly, two Parisian printsellers, are 
generally credited with conceiving 
the notion, in 1778, of creating 



5 Walking dress 
Ackerman's Repository, 1810 




6 Ball dress 
Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1816 



7. Children's clothing 
Wiener Moden 1817 



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colored prints showing the prevail- 
ing fashion for both men and 
women. (Some publications, nota- 
bly The Lady's Magazine, published 
in London, were issuing black-and- 
white prints at this time.) Under the 
title La Galerie des Modes, Mes- 
sieurs Esnauts's and Rapilly's 
plates appeared at irregular inter- 
vals, interspersed with portraits of 
the fashion arbiters of the day, i.e., 
members of the French court, and 
renderings of current theatrical 
costumes, all richly detailed and 
carefully captioned. 

When La Galerie des Modes 
rather abruptly ceased publication 
in 1787, there was a hiatus in the 
production of fine fashion plates 
until Stuttgart-born, Paris-trained 
engraver Nicolaus Wilhelm von 
Heideloff launched the Gallery of 
Fashion in London, in 1794. 
Exquisitely hand-tinted and even 
embellished with metallics, the 
prints in the Gallery of Fashion 
were a wonderful fulfillment of the 
reportage feature of real fashion 
plates, failing only as to any 
prediction about future trends in 
fashionable dress. It is interesting 
to note that until its death in 1803, 
the Gallery of Fashion, issued as 
two multi-figure aquatints per 



month, bore a subscription rate of 
three guineas a year And records 
indicate that its total circulation 
reached a high of 347 copies sold 
in Great Britain and 67 abroad. 
However, with the Princesses 
Royal, Elizabeth and Augusta, the 
Duke of York, the Empress of 
Germany and later, Queen Charlotte 
herself among the subscribers, 
Heideloff achieved an "audience" 
any publisher would boast of. 

By the turn of the century, sev- 
eral periodicals that included true 
fashion plates were being published 
regularly in France, England and 
Germany, though many, like The 
Lady's Magazine, at first issued 
uncolored prints. And in the four 
decades bracketing the change of 
century, among a raft of short-lived 
fashion publications, eight are 
significant for being launched and 
surviving thirty years or more (if not 
for the uninterrupted excellence of 
their plates). The aforementioned 
Lady's Magazine is surely one. La 
Belle Assemblee or Bell's Court 
and Fashionable Magazine, 
addressed particularly to the 
Ladies, published in London from 
1806 to 1868, is another La Belle 
Assemblee suffered many years of 
dogged if not distinguished publi- 



cation—including several where it 
merely printed out-of-date material 
from French periodicals— until 1855 
when it began to feature prints by 
Heloi'se Leloir (one of three sisters 
well known for charming fashion 
plates). 

But fashion was only one of its 
concerns. La Belle Assemblee 
contained text pieces on politics 
and current exhibitions, articles on 
cooking and painting, and even 
poetry. And, not unlike today's 
fashion magazines, it carried 
advertising for fabrics, trim, cos- 
metics and personal care items like 
false teeth and depilatories. 

Die Wiener Moden-Zeitung, 
which flourished between 1816 and 
1844, is significant for issuing some 
52 plates a year thus giving data 
on the idiosyncracies of the 
Viennese mode, which was quite 
distinct from the Parisian, in the 
early nineteenth century at any rate. 

The Repository of Arts, Litera- 
ture, Commerce, Manufactures, 
Fashion and Politics (1809-1828), 
published by Rudolph Ackerman in 
London, is important for its consis- 
tently excellent and pretty, romantic 
plates, engraved and hand-colored, 
bearing only one figure each 
(except when a child was included). 



8- Promenade dress 
La Belle Assemblee, 1818 



9. Wedding dress 
Petit Courner des Dames, 1826 




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10. Walking and Dinner dresses 
World of Fashion, 1830 



A monthly that comprised pictures 
of stylish furniture and portraits as 
well as fashion plates, Ackerman's 
Repository, as it came to be known, 
also expanded a merchandising 
concept La Belle Assemblee may 
have originated: in some of its early 
numbers, actual samples of newly 
created dress materials were 
pasted into the book, complete with 
detailed descriptions of the fabrics 
and the addresses of their 
manufacturers. 

Artists and filmmakers since 
have loved the pathos of the scene: 
tattered, grimy, frightened French 
aristocrats, wearing the scraps of 
their excessive costumes as they 
await the guillotine in some dingy 
holding room. The theatrical value 
of a marquis in soiled silk breeches 
and torn multi-ruffled shirt: the 
countess in her now-shabby 
brocade dress with enormous 
panniers (or side bustles) reflects 
precisely the human theater of that 
very serious, critical social 
upheaval, the French Revolution. 

It's not surprising, either, that the 
post-Revolutionary mode was in 
direct reaction to the time's sartor- 
ial, as well as political, excesses. 
The accepted style became 
immediately simpler, with French 



men adopting the attitude of 
dignified ease of English country 
gentlemen, and women seeking 
less brightly-colored dresses with 
simpler lines. 

In clear contrast to the preceding 
period, fashionable ladies of the 
post-Revolutionary era chose 
narrow-skirted, relatively unadorned 
dresses with discreetly covered 
bodices and upper arms (figure 1 ), 
the skirts usually just short enough 
to reveal silk-stockinged ankles. In 
a mildly intellectual way, this 
silhouette— later evolved as the 
Empire dress we refer to today- 
represented a trend toward natural- 
ism, since complicated under- 
pinnings were abandoned and the 
dress conformed much more 
closely to the actual female body. 

Ladies' hair was no longer 
tortured and ornamented and pow- 
dered, but worn curled and up. 
Hats were small and cheerily 
feminine. 

During the Directoire, this new 
passion for simplicity reached a 
zenith in the fashion a la Grecque. 
The fair Helens of the day wore 
high-waisted chemises— sometimes 
with a slight train— in the sheerest 
imaginable fabrics. In fact, the 
penchant for naturalism was taken 



so far as to dictate that a woman's 
dress was supposed to weigh no 
more than a half pound and be able 
to be drawn through its owner's 
wedding band! The inescapable 
reality that such costumes were 
entirely unsatisfactory for the winter 
months led to a great interest 
in— not to say need for— beautifully 
warm shawls and, less understand- 
ably, short-cropped Spencer 
jackets, as coverings (cover). 

From the extraordinary opulence 
of men's attire in Louis XVI's court, 
the ensuing style achieved a 
straightforwardness from which 
men's clothes have never com- 
pletely recovered. Their choices in 
fabrics became duller, less ornate. 
Knee-length breeches, a fashion so 
intimately associated with courtiers, 
were almost instantly, if briefly, 
given up for longer trousers, 
symbolizing perhaps, an identifica- 
tion with the French working class 
who had always worn them. Even 
men's hair was liberated from 
the fussy powdering and dressing 
of the royal heyday. 

Around the turn of the century, 
startling changes, accurately 
recorded in fashion plates of the 
period (figure 2), occurred in men's 
fashions and they were, amusingly, 



10 




11 



influenced by two people: the 
Prince Regent, George IV a predict- 
able source ot trends, who was 
superseded in the end by his 
low-born friend, Beau Brummell 

To be sure, the innovative, 
creative Regent would turn up at a 
ball wearing a pink satin vest or a 
new style of shoe buckle, and it 
was immediately copied. But it was 
young Brummell, having first gained 
notice at Eton for his individualized 
style, who gained entry to the 
Prince's coterie and soared to the 
pinnacle of social arbitration. 

This "prime minister of taste" 
favored short-cropped, natural hair 
and hairless faces. He promoted 
the clean-lined, careful tailoring for 
which London's craftsmen are 
renowned today. He wore little or 
no jewelry or fussy ruffles, but did 
set a style for skintight trousers. 
Brummell's most impressive contri- 
bution, however, was probably the 
expertly fitted, cropped tailcoat that 
he wore over a short vest and a 
modestly frilled shirt with a crisp, 
high collar and a stock tie. 

Concurrent with this trend for 
dandyism (the era's term for the 
most fastidious attention to the new 
style for men), was the Romantic 
movement. Exhausted from wars 
and drastic changes and fluxes in 
government, people seemed to 
yearn for some idealized beauty. 
And with the Restoration, a pair of 
old men held political sway in 
France, but through disinterest, 
abandoned to the theater the most 
successful influence on the day's 
fashion: a sense of fantasy 



11. Dressing gown 
Petit Courrier des Dames, 1831 



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12 Wedding dress 
Petit Courtier des Dames. 1 834 



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Petit Courner des Dames. 1835 






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14. Mens clothing 
German publication, title unknown, 1837 




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15 Women's day dresses and man's dressing gown 
English publication, title unknown, 1848 



Ladies' light, body-revealing 
vertical silhouettes became soft- 
ened and blurred with all manner of 
bows, ribbons, and trim (figure 4). 
The several years' vogue for white 
fabrics— which somewhat reduced 
the inspiration for fashion-plate 
artists— ended around 1807, while 
the high-rise Empire waistline 
survived until about 1824 (figure 6). 



In fact, throughout the 1820s, 
the look became increasingly 
fanciful, with the advent of puffs, 
ruffles, frivolous collars and cuffs, 
and trims (figure 9). Ornamentation 
regained favor— black-tipped 
ermine, for example, once the 
exclusive sartorial privilege of 
royals, was a very popular choice 
for edging coats or muffs. Hats 




15 



grew bigger while bonnets were 
first introduced as a millinery 
alternative (figure 8). Hair was worn 
in ever more elaborate arrange- 
ments of curls and feathers and rib- 
bons (figure 9). The recently- 
preferred white and delicate pastel 
shades of silk and cotton were defi- 
nitely overthrown for more strongly 
colored fabrics. Perhaps the most 
telling signal of the shift away from 
pure, unadorned naturalism is seen 
in the return of the corset, 
designed now to raise but not 
reveal the bosom. 

This woman's male counterpart 
was probably wearing a simple 
cutaway frockcoat, a waistcoat, and 
trousers of a lighter shade, some- 
times held down by an instep strap. 
His pants mirror the women's 
looser skirts in their wider leg. A 
tall, stovepipe hat would, most 
likely, complete his look. 

As fashion plates of the day so 
aptly record, the Romantic move- 
ment for a time liberated children 
from lives led as little adults (fig- 
ure 7). The new philosophy that 
deemed childhood an innocent 
period of freedom and growth was 
reflected in simple frocks of com- 
fortable cotton muslin that allowed 
little girls to frolic and play— like 
children. The boys were relieved of 
their miniature versions of the 
frockcoat and breeches, and put 
into short jackets worn over simple 
shirts with side-button trousers. 

The 1820s continued to see the 
birth of myriad fashion publica- 
tions, edited to chart the aforemen- 
tioned vagaries of fashion. Among 



16. Walking dress and hunting costume 
Les Modes Parisiennes, 1852 




16 



17. Wedding and day dresses 
Les Modes Parisiennes, 1857 






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the notable European French 
launches were Le Petit Courner des 
Dames, which weekly published 
one or two plates by the best- 
known and most skilled artists in 
the field. 

And in the 1840s, Le Courner 
had the good fortune of an associ- 
ation with one such artist, Mme 
Florensa de Closmenil, who 
brought great appeal to her figures, 
took pains to add attractive back- 
ground settings for them, and 
represented children as particularly 
happy little models. Her work can 
also be found among the portfolios 
of Le Bon Ton (another first-rate 
and long-lived French entry, which 
appeared in 1834), and The World 
of Fashion. La Mode (1829-1837) 
was a weekly best known for the 
work of another talented engraver, 
Paul Gavarni, who created the most 
delightfully feminine creatures 
accompanied by sweet, lively 
children. 

The World of Fashion, issued out 
of London from 1824 to 1891, was 
just one of the magazines of the 
time experimenting with folio size. 
Plates tended to be square and to 
contain up to six figures per 
engraving. Le Follet Courner des 
Salons, born in 1829, is significant 
for its especially stylish plates- 
marking the beginning of the 
supremacy of French plates over 
English— and the fact that it contin- 
ued to produce its hand-colored 
plates into the 1890s. 

The first American fashion 
magazine appeared in Philadelphia 
in 1824, with the imitatively burden- 



17 



18 Children's clothing 
Les Modes Pansiennes. 1863 



some title of Graham's American 
Monthly Magazine of Literature, Art 
and Fashion, and tended to offer 
copies of French and English 
plates, engraved locally, but as 
much as a year out of date. 

Its slightly younger sister 
publication, Godey's Ladies' 
Handbook (published out of Phila- 
delphia from 1830 to 1898) is better 
known today and was, presumably, 
the more successful magazine in its 
time, Godey's issued one monthly 
plate— at first crude copies of plates 
in French magazines like Le Petit 
Courrier— and later, it imported 
metal plates from France, with the 
captions erased and adjusted to 
account for the many months 
elapsed in the overseas connection. 

Godey's became an American 
institution: even Gone With the 
Wind's Scarlet O'Hara pouted 
about the inconvenience of the 
Civil War since it prevented her 
receiving her copy of Godey's. (It is 
also one of the first publications 
outside of Germany to drop hand- 
colored plates for generally unsuc- 
cessful color printing, which it did 
in 1890.) 

Similarly, The Lady's Magazine 
began at about this time (1830) to 
import French plates whose 



captions were doctored and trans- 
lated into English. 

Young Victoria could have 
provided the model for the late 
1830s, since her slim waist; large, 
liquid-dark eyes; and graceful, 
gently submissive, slope-shoul- 
dered posture reflected the female 
ideal. 

The fashions that clothed this 
"perfect creature" are perhaps by 
today's standards silly, but they 
inspired some of the most enjoy- 
able fashion plates. The exagger- 
ated "champagne-bottle" shoulders 
were emphasized with dropped 
sleeve seams and vast collars or 
bared in off-the-shoulder evening 
gowns (figure 10). Belled skirts 
dropped to floor length and were 
decorated with every sort of lace, 
ribbon and flora-punctuated 
draping. Sleeves became exuber- 
antly puffed, narrowing to the wrist 
(figure 11 ) or ballooning in leg-of- 
mutton-in-reverse configurations. 
The taste for fripperies engendered 
equally frilly, fussy accessories: 
hats, aprons, gloves. 

Parisian men of the period also 
presented a rather "feminized" 
silhouette with a peculiarly unflat- 
tering emphasis on the hips. 
Tailcoats and even the skirted 



frockcoats were ever so tightly 
waist-cinched, then flared out over 
looser, long trousers (figure 13). 
The recent trend toward beardless- 
ness was undermined to some 
extent by a taste for side whiskers, 
too. 

The following decade, however, 
brought a saner, or at least more 
conservative approach to being well 
dressed. The gentleman of the 
1840s, were he not a spendthrift 
dandy, would require a minimal 
wardrobe consisting of four morn- 
ing coats, seven pairs of trousers, 
plus various day and evening 
waistcoats (figure 14). 

The female's raucous ribbons 
and bows also gradually gave way 
to neater tucks and ornate but 
orderly passementerie and other 
braid trim (figure 15). Women were 
quite literally subdued by longer 
corsets, heavier skirts— and bulky, 
substantial shawls. Their profusions 
of carefully designed curls were 
tamed into smoothed-down, parted 
styles with, usually, two side 
chignons or rolls. Side-paneled 
poke-bonnet-shaped hats proffered 
them limited views of the world, 
much as if they were peering 
eternally from club chairs. 



18 




19 



19 Ball dresses 
Les Modes Parisiennes, 1861 



When Louis Napoleon returned 
to power in France in 1848 (later to 
reign as Napoleon III), he brought 
along a corseted, mustachioed 
military-esque appreciation of style, 
as well as a flamboyant, clothes- 
mad wife, Eugenie. 

The 1840s began a three-decade 
"golden age" of fashion plates, and 
in 1843, two of the most significant 
French offerings made their 
appearances: Moniteur de la Mode 
consistently bore the work of artist 
Jules David, who led the era's new 
wave of enlivened engravings. 
Instead of charming but still stiff, 
portrait-like plates, his were rich 
with movement and background 
detail. He made a scene come 
alive— portraying women and 
children at the piano so credibly 
that lovely tunes come to mind, or 
rendering an outdoor setting so 
completely that the locale can be 
envisioned perfectly. His best work 
exemplifies the fashion plate's new, 
literal "atmosphere," and his 
detailed renderings of music rooms, 
conservatories, salons and inciden- 
tally, boudoirs, offer a peek into 
Victorian homelife. 

As English periodicals followed 
The Lady's Magazine's lead, and 
gradually gave up producing their 



own plates to import French ones, 
the important new introduction The 
Englishwoman's Domestic Maga- 
zine chose to present many of 
David's pictures, from 1860 on. 

Frangois-Claudins Compte-Calix, 
chief artist for Les Modes Pari- 
siennes (1843-1875), was, like 
many of his colleagues, a noted 
watercolorist as well. His poetic, 
sentimental style made for a sweet, 
naive attitude in his plates, espe- 
cially those with women and 
children (figure 16). And though 
Les Modes started out larger than 
quarto, it had to reduce to the size 
of other publications, explaining 
the change to its readers with an 
editorial note about the shortcom- 
ings of the postal service. 

The Queen, born in 1861, was 
composed largely of articles on 
social and domestic topics, as well 
as offerings of literature thought 
suitable for ladies. Its plates— each 
containing two adults and one 
child, or all children's wear— came 
primarily from Le Petit Courrier. It 
had a successful life, even beyond 
1898 when it ceased running 
hand-colored plates and substituted 
color-printed ones. It was the last 
English hold-out on that aesthetic 
point. 



With all the French and British 
publications surviving and others 
that appeared only briefly through 
these years, one German publica- 
tion achieved what was probably 
the largest circulation of the time. It 
was printed in no fewer than 
fourteen languages under different 
titles: its name in New York was 
The Season. 

Also in America, there was 
Harper's Bazar, which debuted in 
1867 and enjoyed prominence 
until 1898 (its current prestige and 
authority were regained about 
1913). Bazar, however offered 
almost exclusively black-and-white 
engravings of European fashions 
that had been "adapted" for the 
distinctly American lifestyle. 

By the mid-Victorian era, fashion 
plates no longer reflected a style 
set by the Queen of England, but 
rather that struck by the new 
regent in France. Napoleon III, a 
man interested in looking smart for 
glittering evenings, and who 
encouraged ostentation in matters 
of style, was himself outdone by his 
wife, the Empress Eugenie. It is 
said, in fact, that she could talk of 
nothing but clothes and beauty, 
and that her nickname could well 
have been "the queen of crinolines." 



20 



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21 



20 Womarfs and boy's walking outfits 
Les Modes Parisiennes, 1866 




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Across the Channel, with Queen 
Victoria in continual mourning, her 
son Edward with his beautiful 
Danish wife Alexandra also pre- 
sented a royal example of gaiety 
and a glamourous attitude that was 
surely noted in fashionable Euro- 
pean circles. 

The arrogance of hindsight 
makes the female costume of the 
1840s seem ludicrous. Women 
wore pantalettes under a stiff wool 
and horsehair petticoat ("crin" 
means horsehair in French) and up 
to ten more petticoats, some of 
which were boned and padded. 
The desired effect was a floor- 
sweeping skirt about four yards 
around. 

Heavy corsets contained fuller 
Victorian figures— ladies of this era 
being admired for solidity 
expressed through virtuous and 
prolific motherhood— sheathed 
in weighty fabrics available in 
brand new sharp colors made 
possible by the discovery of aniline 
dyes. An open-sided bonnet or 
floral hat, a muff, reticule and 
parasol completed the look. 

In the 1850s, the sheer pound- 
age of stiffened petticoats was 
considerably reduced with the 
invention of steel-spring hoopskirts 
to support the crinolines. So clearly 
an upper-class fashion, the hugest 
crinolined skirts actually required 
servants to lower the dress over 
those extraordinary underpinnings 
and their wearer. And Eugenie, 
whose morals were apparently a 
much discussed topic in French 
society, was at the fore as these 



22 



21 . Day dresses 
Revue de la Mode, 1873 



22 Wedding and day dresses 
LeFollel. 1882 




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23 



skirts became their biggest, their 
most impenetrable (figure 19). Her 
particular style, however, was to 
pair them with daringly low-cut 
decolletees— a stunning example of 
mixed messages. 

The next decade saw the advent 
of separates: bodices and hoop- 
skirts, a penchant for fine laces and 
jewelry, false hair pieces, fans, and 
elaborately embroidered shawls. 
Otherwise, dolmans and hip-length 
jackets were worn as wraps over 
the gradually withering skirts. 

Victorian gentlemen, having left 
the societal demonstration of 
wealth and position to their wives 
and daughters, approached an 
almost formulaic wardrobe that 
would pertain, more or less, until 
1900. The frockcoat was no longer 
cutaway— except when worn in 
black, for evening, with matching 
black trousers and waistcoat and a 
bow tie replacing the cravat. 
Daytime trousers were most often 
striped or patterned, and in about 
1850, the skirtless cropped jacket 
gained popularity as a morning or 
informal alternative to the frockcoat. 
The modern notion of a man's 
suit— three pieces in matching fab- 
ric—appeared around 1868. 

At the time, Victorian sensitivities 
to the exposure of legs (which 
extended to pianos, hence their 
draping with huge fringed shawls 1 ) 
dictated that even little girls' frocks 
be regulated as to length. Tunics 
that resembled full-skirted short 
dresses were worn by boys until 
about age seven, when they were 
advanced to some combination of a 



23. Boy's and girls' communion outfits and woman's day dress 
Le Moniteur de la Mode. 1882 




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24 Country dresses 
Le Moniteur tie la Mode, 1885 



25 Walking dress 
llluslnrte Frauen Zeitung, 1905 



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26 



26 Sailing costume 
Wiener Mode, 1894 



jacket and pants (figure 18). 

Though the late-Victorian, then 
the Edwardian period, through to 
1914, saw distinct and often drastic 
modulations in feminine mode, it is 
this period that marks the decline 
of the hand-colored fashion plate. 
As Vyvyan Holland laments in his 
book Hand Coloured Fashion 
Plates, "... mechanical 
colour-printing began to get a 
stranglehold on fashion magazines." 

It is true that over one hundred 
fashion magazines made their 
debuts in the years between 1840 
and 1870, and that comparatively 
few containing fashion plates 
appeared between 1870 and the 
turn of the century. Among the 
notable exceptions: Revue de la 
Mode (1872-1888), I' Art et la Mode 
(1880-1900), and a new periodical 
entitled Wiener Mode (there had 
been another) that bowed in 1887. 

In 1870, during the Franco- 
Prussian War many of the English, 
German and American magazines 
were left in the proverbial lurch. 
Owing perhaps to its place in the 
French soul, fashion carried on 
under siege, and somehow, most of 
the Parisian publications kept right 
on publishing. 

This period preceding the turn of 



the century, of course, saw several 
older publications flourish, too. Le 
Moniteur de la Mode, for instance, 
was still going strong, but now with 
a G. Gonin as principal artist, Jules 
David having died in 1892. 

In his writing about fashion 
plates. Vyvyan Holland suggests, a 
bit petulantly, that part of the 
decline in plates was due to the 
"ugliness" of the clothes. That 
opinion is easy to argue. 

It was an Englishman working in 
Pans who. in 1863. changed the 
fashion world forever. Charles 
Frederick Worth showed finished 
dresses on live models to prospec- 
tive clients, and haute couture as 
we know it still, was born. Worth 
had opened his own maison on the 
rue de la Paix and by 1867 had 
become equally selective about the 
quality of his materials (eventually, 
he had fabrics created to his 
specifications), and about his 
clientele. He shaped the snobbish 
aura of haute couture at its infancy. 

Whatever his pretensions, Worth 
did have a refined taste that was 
effectively brought to bear when he 
began weeding through the wild 
ornamentation of women's dresses. 
He is credited with bringing pre- 
viously ignored satins and silk 



brocades into popular acceptance, 
and he himself proclaimed exul- 
tantly that he'd "dethroned the 
crinoline" by designing gowns with 
much less preposterously propor- 
tioned skirts (figure 20). He also 
made life less than perfect for all 
the ladies' dressmakers— the 
women to whom fashion plates 
were ultimately directed— because 
now every woman of fashion 
wanted a Worth creation. 

In the 1870s, under Worth's 
influence, the emphasis, the bulk of 
skirts began, still with the aid of 
pads, wires and mini-panniers, to 
recede to the back, with some 
fullness at the hips, creating the 
bustled silhouette. 

Sub-trends included the reintro- 
duction of the polonaise (figure 21 ) 
(or Polish national costume), to 
Pans around 1877, which in turn. 
seems to have influenced Worth's 
princess gown. The princess 
involved a skirt that was tight to the 
knees and then flounced. And, by 
1879, there was a vogue for the 
princess robe, a silhouette that fol- 
lowed the figure in front and at the 
sides, but was bunched up in back. 

These are all variations on the 
bustle theme, though, which at its 
pinnacle included a train, a tiny 



27 



elongated and pointed waistline, 
and bell-shaped crinolines to 
support all the backward sway and 
drapery across the hips (figure 23). 
While bustles reached their maxi- 
mum popularity— and a slightly 
absurd, piled-on appearance— 
around 1885 (figure 24), the 
favorite wrap was the dolman, now 
with a fitted, short-cropped back to 
accommodate the bustle, and long 
hanging front panels and loose, 
cape-like sleeves. 

Likewise, the mode for chignons 
or nape-of-the-neck cascades of 
ringlets required that bonnets be 
cut out in back. Fancy buttons; 
single diamond or paste earrings; 
fans on slipknots attached at the 
waist; high, tight necklines and 
high-heeled boots were essentials 
to the well-dressed woman. 

Pity the poor children. It was in 
1886 that the Little Lord Fauntleroy 
suit became the rage for boys. 
Inspired originally by Gainsbor- 
ough's Blue Boy, the suit was 
either black or sapphire velvet, a 
jacket with knickers. It was worn 
over a white linen blouse with a 
large lace collar. That the look 
finally came into ill-repute as a 
sissy mode may have had some- 
thing to do with its adoption by 
grown-up male aesthetes. Oscar 
Wilde, for one, shocked a nation 
when he toured the U.S. in 1882 
wearing black velvet knickers, a 
flowing tie and curls. 

In any case, boys tended to stay 
in short trousers, or be graduated 
into the knickerbockers their 
fathers wore for golfing and bicy- 



27. 



'Lampshade" dress with 
Gazette du Bon Ton 



hobble skirt 
1913 




28 



cling. It wasn't until 1920 that long 
pants were generally available to 
little boys. 

The 1880s saw another mini-rev- 
olution in female fashion. With the 
opening of the Savoy Hotel restau- 
rant in London, women began to 
have trendy yet respectable places 
to go to show off their expensive 
and lavish clothes. At the same 
time, women became free to 
participate, however gingerly, in 
sports like bicycling, boating (figure 
26), and skating. The see-and-be- 
seen compulsion, which ran right 
through the Belle Epoque, through 
the Jazz Age, and which still 
pertains today, was alight. And the 
sporting theme opened up entirely 
new possibilities— requirements, in 
fact— for a lady's wardrobe. 

As separates became more and 
more entrenched, the tight, fitted 
tops or basques with leg-of-mutton 
sleeves gently gave way to unlined 
shirtwaists and blouses, just as the 
bustled skirt softened into a 
circularly-cut bell skirt lined with 
stiffening to the knee. Also around 
the turn of the century, man-tai- 
lored, long-skirted suits for women 
made their first appearances (figure 
25) and were adapted as skating 
costumes, with short skirts, by 1906. 

Regardless of what clothes they 
were actually wearing, women 
during the last of the nineteenth 
century were measured against a 
physical type commonly known as 
the hourglass figure. Thin, short 
blondes must have, at times, 
considered suicide as tall, fleshy 
women with big bosoms and heavy 



28. Afternoon suit 
Gazette du Bon Ton, 1913 




29 





LA DERNIERE LETTRE PERSANE 

Extrait ik I' Album edile par led Fourrurcj Max 



30 



29 Suit 

Gazette du Bon Ton, 1920 



hips were held up as examples of 
perfection. They were dark, with the 
palest skin possible, on the order 
of Lily Langtry, Jennie Churchill, or 
the girl Charles Dana Gibson made 
famous. 

To get the look, women strung 
and fastened themselves into 
torturous waist-shrinking corsets 
(the extremists had lower ribs 
removed) and then used starched 
lace and padding to fill out the 
bosom and hips. Puff-sleeved 
blouses with high collars, trailing 
skirts, heeled boots and upswept 
hair rolled over horsehair "rats" 
topped with huge hats— that was 
"it!" 

But as reaction to the stifling 
Victorian era built, and social 
influences— not the least of which 
was the suffragette movement- 
developed, something had to give. 
It did, and it was the corset. 

A Parisian designer named Paul 
Poiret, who had worked for a time 
with Worth, read the minds of 
contemporary women and began 
showing dresses with no waist at 
all, but rather flowing affairs that 
resembled ancient Greek tunics. 
Often gathered under the bosom, 
Poiret's dresses fell in a relatively 
unadorned simplicity to the floor Of 



course, he elaborated on his own 
concept, creating Orientally- 
inspired tunics, kimono-wrap tops 
(figure 27), and turbans to be worn 
with his gowns. Poiret was also the 
originator of the loose sack dress 
and, in a perverse relapse, of the 
hobble skirt (figure 28). (This 
contrivance first appeared in 1910, 
and for several years fashionable 
women stumbled, teetered and, 
well, hobbled about in these 
ridiculously narrow creations.) 

For the men, the look became 
cleaner-lined and narrower, too. 
Shorter jackets with wider lapels 
topped longer, creased and cuffed 
trousers (Edward VII is named as 
the instigator of creased pants 
legs). It was the slick and slim 
Arrow Collar man who projected 
the male ideal. 

The First World War caused a 
general hiatus in the development 
of fashion— with the important 
exception that skirts rose to ankle- 
height or above (figures 29 and 30) 
—after which emerged the flapper 
style. And in the ensuing era of 
proliferating couturier names, Coco 
Chanel dominates. She embodied 
the easy-going style of the time, 
with her bobbed hair her little black 
evening chemises and her sweaters 



—with pants! 

And so it is that fashion plates, 
as up-to-the-minute recordings, 
offer a delightful view of the tastes 
and tendencies of their times. Seen 
against the entire spectrum of 
communications, they hold an 
important place between the 
completely costumed miniature 
dolls Mme Rose Bertin, Marie 
Antoinette's dressmaker and confi- 
dante, sold to inform women of the 
current court style, and today's 
prime purveyors of fashion informa- 
tion. In fact, the successors to 
fashion plates are really two-fold: 
photo-filled, glossy magazines that 
are produced monthly by the 
hundreds of thousands, and mass- 
produced, mass-distributed paper 
patterns. For fashion plates were 
meant as much to instruct her 
dressmaker as to amuse the 
fashionable lady. Fashion plates are 
original, idiosyncratic and pleasing 
proof of the adage: "One picture is 
worth a thousand words." 



Joan Lancaster Harting 



31 



30. Day dress 
Gazette du Bon Ton, 1921 



50200 




Selected Bibliography 

Holland, Vyvyan 

Hand Coloured Fashion Plates 

Boston: Boston Book and Art Shop, 1955 

Batterberry, Michael and Ariane 
Mirror, Mirror, A Social History of Fashion 
New York: Holt, Rinehart and 
Winston, 1977 

Hall, Carrie A. 
From Hoopskirts to Nudity 
Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton 
Printers, Ltd., 1938 

Lurie, Alison 

The Language of Clothes 

New York: Random House, 1981 

Blum, Stella 

Ackerman 's Costume Plates, 

Women 's Fashions in England, 

1818-1828 

New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1978 

Laver, James 

Clothes 

New York: Horizon Press, 1953 

Flugel, J.C. 

The Psychology of Clothes 

London: The Hogarth Press, Ltd., 1950 

Roach, Mary Ellen and 
Joanne B. Eicher 
The Visible Self: 
Perspectives on Dress 
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: 
Prentice-Hall, 1973 

Blum, Stella 

Victorian Fashions & Costumes 
from Harper's Bazaar, 1867-1898 
New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1974 

Hollander, Anne 
Seeing Through Clothes 
New York: The Viking Press, 



1978 



Cunnington, C. Willett 

English Women 's Clothing in the 

Nineteenth Century 

London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1937 



32 



Back Cover: 

Day dress 

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1914 



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